Parasympathetic nervous system
Webster, Douglas B. Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Biocommunication, Louisiana State University Medical Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Last reviewed:August 2019
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A portion of the autonomic system. It consists of two neuron chains, but differs from the sympathetic nervous system in that the first neuron has a long axon and synapses with the second neuron near or in the organ innervated. In general, its action is in opposition to that of the sympathetic nervous system, which is the other part of the autonomic system. It cannot be said that one system, the sympathetic, always has an excitatory role and the other, the parasympathetic, an inhibitory role; the situation depends on the organ in question. However, it may be said that the sympathetic system, by altering the level at which various organs function, enables the body to rise to emergency demands encountered in flight, combat, pursuit, and pain. The parasympathetic system seems in control during such pleasant periods as digestion and rest. The alkaloid pilocarpine excites parasympathetic activity, the atropine inhibits it. See also: Sympathetic nervous system
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